Arrest of ousted Park puts Samsung on edge

Su Jin Jang, March 31, 2017, 9:40 a.m.

The arrest of ousted South Korean leader Park Geun-hye has made Samsung Group, the country's top conglomerate, jittery as it may have a negative impact on the trial of its detained de facto chief, sources said Friday. After a marathon court hearing, former President Park was arrested earlier in the day in connection with a massive corruption scandal that brought her down. Charges against Park include bribery, abuse of authority, coercion and leaking government secrets.

Park is largely suspected of colluding with Choi to force dozens of local conglomerates to "donate" a total of 77.4 billion won ($69 million) to two dubious foundations -- Mir and K-Sports -- allegedly controlled by Choi.

Samsung's de facto leader, Lee Jae-yong, was arrested in mid-February on charges of giving or promising some 43.4 billion won to Choi, and in effect to Park, as kickbacks in return for helping him secure group control through a merger of two key units.

Of the total, 20.4 billion won went to the two foundations.

Lee, vice chairman of tech behemoth Samsung Electronics Co., has denied any wrongdoing, insisting that the presidential office coerced Samsung into providing financial assistance to Choi and her daughter.

Following the detention of Park, Samsung officials voiced concern that a local court in charge of the trial against Lee may not accept his allegation and the trial may be drawn out.

But they expressed confidence that Lee may be cleared of the bribery charge when the Seoul Central District Court starts the trial against Lee fully in early April. 

The third preliminary hearing on Lee's trial was scheduled for Friday afternoon at the district court. The formal trial against him is slated to start on April 7.

A business source said he doesn't expect the arrest of former President Park to affect Lee's trial should it proceed purely based on evidence. 

"It is important for the court to determine whether Lee is guilty or not," he said. "But more important is that it should carry out the trial as quickly as possible."

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